How young volunteers learn in practice from established volunteers: an examination of volunteer learning in community radio in the UK

Benjamin Kyneswood

Research output: Thesis (awarded by external institution)Doctoral Thesis


In this thesis I examined the learning in practice of fourteen young volunteers at four community radio stations in the UK. I queried what learning in practice as a volunteer constituted by examining how the participants accessed support and knowledge from established members, and how practice defined their volunteering and learning. Using an interpretivist methodology applied to private blogs and group interviews, participants recorded their perspectives for between six and nine months. Communities of Practice theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991) was applied to understand how the participants developed their learning relationship with established members. Analysis reveals that established members legitimised participant practice through three phases; an initial phase of broadcasting training where participants began at the periphery of the membership; a second phase of broadcast reviews that sought to develop their relationship with members; and a third phase of non broadcast activities to establish their membership. The relationship between the participants and established members meant the phases were not linear. Participants creatively constructed their broadcasts by developing a fragile, embryonic network of active citizenship (Kenny et al., 2015) to generate community content. In doing so not all participants wanted to establish themselves as members and engage in non-broadcast activities, and drew distinctions between broadcast practice on the periphery and the community development practice of established members. My original contribution to the literature is that by examining volunteering as a learning practice the hidden pressures and conflicts in relationship between newcomers and established members are revealed. I argue that becoming an established member of a voluntary organisation may not be for everyone, but that this does necessarily mean a loss of committed practice to the organisation. Initial volunteering opportunities that are exploratory and creative can establish commitment. I therefore link commitment to practice as a volunteer, rather than as a biographic strategy as suggested elsewhere in the literature.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Birmingham
Award date1 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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